Talking to Kids about Death


How are you all? I apologise for the blunt title, it is a heavy topic, but unfortunately it is on my mind.

Recently a little girl we knew around the same age as my twin girls died. It feels horrific to type that. I want to find a nicer way to say it. She had leukemia, recovered, relapsed and I guess further treatments were unsuccessful. She passed away. It is terribly, terribly sad. It really is unimaginable.

She was a beautiful little person, we knew her through a mutual activity. We didn’t know her really well, but she lived near us and we used to see her around quite a lot. I had just been thinking that I hadn’t seen her in awhile. The last time we saw her I thought she was doing well. It is impossible to fathom that she is not with us.

We saw her picture in the paper, as there was a funeral notice. My girls saw it too. They asked me what it was about. I started to answer and hesitated. Were they ready to hear it? Did they need to hear it? An adult family member was in the room and they cut me off and ended the conversation quickly so that conversation was diverted. The decision about whether or not to be really honest with my girls was made by someone else and I went with that.

The next day we had a similar incident. Some how the situation again came up in discussion, another adult was there and quickly the conversation was diverted and my girls questions went unanswered.

I don’t know whether or not I made the right decision. I don’t know whether or not I should have faced it head on and discussed it with them. I have no doubts this little girl will come up again in conversation. Eventually I will have to tell them.

I read an article recently (and also coincidentally) that suggested you should talk to you kids about death early. It even went so far as to suggest that you should consider purchase a pet with a short life span, such as a fish. So that kids can have a “low impact death situation” to grasp what it really means.

I don’t know what the answer is or when the right time is to explain it. No doubts it is like everything else in life, there probably isn’t a perfect or right time. I don’t know why I feel uncomfortable with the topic, I am pretty quick to be honest with my kids about most things. I know I am not alone in that feeling, if people are writing articles on “low impact death situations for kids”. I also feel somewhat ridiculous for overthinking a discussion with my kids. Imagine how the parents who lose children must feel. How do they function? How do their siblings function? They have no choice.

Death is a reality of life and unfortunately it can be tragic. I am so so so so sorry for the little friend and her beautiful family.  I have felt really upset about it since reading about it, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for those closer.

What are your thoughts? When did you first have to deal with death? Did you parents ever discuss it with you?

Jess xoxox

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6 Responses to Talking to Kids about Death

  1. Oh no. I am so, so sorry to hear about that little girl. Her poor family 🙁 Anyway, I am no expert on this situation at all, but I guess I always remember knowing about death. When I lost a great uncle when I was in the first grade, it was not that big of a shock. My parents I guess had talked to my brother and I about it enough to lessen the blow. They did, however, keep us at home with a babysitter for the funeral.
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    • My first situation was first grade as well with a great aunt. Similar kind of level. Enough that I could understand what was going on sort of, but I wasn’t exceptionally close with them.

  2. I may write more later.

    When I was young, the first real death I had to face was a 10 year old girl of close family friends. She died during heart surgery. My whole family was pretty shaken by it.

    I would think, like I imagine you do, that if a child asks a question, they deserve an honest answer. Just don’t complicate it more than they are asking for. Like “where do babies come from,” when the answer they want is “from the hospital.”

    I saw a movie recently where the young girl asked her father where he would go when he died, and he replied by putting his finger on her heart and telling her he would be there forever. I liked that!

    • Yeah I like that too! And I also love the where do babies come from answer! I like to give an honest answer generally as well. From the hospital could have been useful a few months ago, although I am sure it will come up again. I wasn’t ready for the complicated answer to that one! haha

  3. Oh how sad.

    I was always a bit confused about death when I was young. My dad’s mother died just before I was born and he never really got over her loss. He talked about her but never her death and I remember wondering ‘why’ and ‘how’. My dad always tucked my arms under my blanket / sheets when he tucked me in (whereas I liked my arms on the outside) and I used to wonder if that was why nanna died… did she sleep with her arms outside the covers?
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    • Oh wow isn’t it funny the way kids think and the things they assume. Makes me wonder what my kids are putting together in their minds. Thanks for sharing!

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